Do you ever buy stuff online?

Yeah, that’s a pretty stupid question.

Do you ever read the little online reviews and star ratings? I sure as hell do. Who writes those things? Well, I’ve written a few. And you should too. It’s super-duper easy.

For example, perhaps you will read my book. Perhaps you will enjoy it. Or perhaps hate it. Either way, perhaps you will write a review—not just of my book, but maybe of other writers’ books as well. It’s the single most supportive thing you can do for an author or other creative producer. Other than buy 100+ copies of the product. (If you buy 100+ copies of my novel, I will certainly forgive you if you don’t also review it.)

Anyone can write a review; there are no special qualifications required so long as you have an Amazon account. You don’t even have to have bought the item in question, at least not from Amazon. (It is poor form to review things you haven’t actually tried out.) Just scroll down to the user review section and click the button that says, in nice big letters “Write a customer review.” Seriously, that’s all the qualification you need.

Once you’ve done that, though, you have to write something. And that’s the part that might intimidate some folk. So here are some pointers:

  • Keep it Short. It doesn’t have to be a book report—just think of why you liked it (or didn’t) and put that into a few sentences. Seriously, just three or four sentences is generally enough. Obviously, if you’re keen to wax poetic you can go into greater detail, and that’s much appreciated by both author and potential buyers, but it’s unlikely anybody’s going to read a review that’s longer than what you’d type on a typical page in Microsoft Word. So don’t feel like you have to go epic.
  • Avoid Critique. It’s not the right place for it and it colors your review in a way that makes it less credible to others. Personally, I’m fine with receiving criticism—I crave it, really—but this blog is a more appropriate and direct way of getting it to me.
  • Don’t Argue with Other Reviews. Some people will write stuff you don’t agree with. Ignore it. Just write what you want to say.
  • Understand Amazon’s Star System. 5 stars means you recommend it without hesitation. 4 means you recommend it with caveats. 1, 2, and 3 stars all mean you don’t recommend the book at all. Which is OK, but don’t give 3 stars to a book you’re recommending.
  • Keep it Short. Again. Yeah, I said this one already, but it bears repeating. You can go longer if you feel the urge, but three or four sentences will really do the trick.

There are a couple of other things you can do on top of writing a review. Rate existing reviews as “helpful” or “unhelpful.” (Those ratings, from regular people like you, help determine which reviews are most likely to be seen by people checking out the book.) If you come across bad reviews (by this I don’t mean someone who didn’t like the book—I mean someone who’s abusive, or clearly didn’t even read the same book), you can comment on it or report it as abusive.

And of course you can tell all your friends about it. That’s a big help.

Or you could buy 100+ copies. The next best thing to writing a review.

Writers live and die by the feedback they get from their readers, so I’d love your comments—there’s a little link just down below to the right. Also:

  • Receive an email notification of every update to this site by subscribing (see the link to the right)
  • Follow me on Twitter at @charlesmryan, where I post lots of game, writing, and geek news and can often be dragged into conversation
  • Follow my writing diary on Facebook at Charles M Ryan, where I post frequent short bits on the writing process and state of my current projects
  • Encircle me (is that right?) on Google+, where, like most people, I have no idea what I’m doing
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